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Ultimate Tailgating Roundup: 43 Must-Haves for an Epic Football Pregame

The start of fall means the start of football season, and there's nothing better than cheering on your team with a cold beer and some tasty snacks. Since tailgating is almost as important as (or better than) the actual game, we've made throwing a tailgating a little easier with our ultimate roundup packed with recipes, planning tips, decorating ideas, and serving hacks you’ll need to keep every guest happy, whether you’re in the stadium parking lot or hosting at home.

First Quarter: Killer Décor 

If you're tailgating at home, knowing what to wear and how to decorate will really put your party over the edge. 


1. No-Sew Garland 

Something as simple as this garland can take your party from ordinary to impressive in just a few minutes. Get the directions for that and some more no-sew ideas here. 


2. DIY Megaphone 

This idea is fun for kids, and it's a keepsake they can use at home or take to games. Here are the directions for this easy megaphone. 


3. Printables and Balloons


Printables are another easy way to decorate for a tailgate party. Pair printable templates with balloons for a festive football party. For even more party planning inspiration, check out these decorations for a tailgate-themed birthday party. 


Second Quarter: Kick-off Drinks 

Of course, any tailgate party isn’t complete without a drinking game. Check out some crowd-favorites here.


4. Bourbon-Ginger Tailgating Punch

Make a big batch of this punch the night before so that the flavors marinate well--all of your football enthusiasts will love it.


5. Ginger Beer Punch 

This lemon lime drink is a perfect way to stretch beer out so that it lasts for longer. It's bubbly and refreshing, and perfect for any tailgate. 


6. Brandy Apple Punch

Introduce the fresh flavors of fall with this punch. It’s cool enough to keep you focused, yet crisp enough to keep you cozy.


7. Mint Punch Cooler

For a fresh flavor to go with your burgers and nachos, try this mint punch cooler. It’s not as heavy as beer, and won’t make you groggy at half time.


8. Apple Pear Punch 

This drink will remind you that fall is just around the corner, but won't sacrifice that refreshing summer crispness. The combination of apples and pears will keep your whole crowd happy. 


9. Margarita Jello Shots

Who says that jello shots are only for extreme heat? Amp up your pre-game festivities with this fun recipe.


10. Apple Cider Sangria

Summer isn’t quite over yet--remind your guests of the warm weather with this beachy pineapple and coconut recipe.


11. Beer Lime Margaritas

This summer rum punch will keep you on your toes as you keep score. Round up your guests for this tart favorite.


12. Earl Grey Cocktail

This is a perfect thermos cocktail for a chilly morning game. Make a big batch of tea in a crockpot to feed more guests!


13. Tequila Mocha

Spicy chocolate is good any time of year; this thermos cocktail proves it! Whip it up in the morning and sip it slowly throughout the game.


Delicious Halftime Dips 

Bring the crockpot and serve up your favorite warm dips, perfect for a crowd. Don't forget chips, crackers and veggies for dipping! 


14. Skinny Crockpot Parmesan Spinach Dip

Add some brightness and health to your tailgate menu with this delicious dip. It will go with every item on your menu, and your guests will be begging for more. Check out even more skinny recipes for your tailgate here.


15. Slow Cooker Queso Fundido with Chorizo 

Meat + cheese = touchdown! Even your hungriest, toughest-to-please guests will fall in love with this delicious slow-cooker dip. 


16. Sweet Peach Guacamole

Guac is a staple for any party. Twist it up with this peach recipe. And, if you want, get your guests in on the fun--turn it into a full-fledged guac party with these ideas!


17. Pepperoni Pizza Dip 

Who doesn't love pizza at any watch party? Rather than ordering 5 different pies, enjoy this dippable form of an all-time favorite at your next bash. It's way cheaper, and insanely easy to make. 


18. Mexican Spider Web Dip

This layered creation combines a bunch of favorites: guacamole, salsa, sour cream, and more. Get the recipe here.


19. Crockpot Barbecue Chicken Dip

We’re used to seeing buffalo chicken dip and barbecue wings on tailgating menus. Why not switch it up with this recipe?


20. Spicy Bacon Egg and Cheese Dip

This dip is perfect for a morning game, because it combines quintessential breakfast sandwich components. Serve it with chips or crostini.


21. Chili Cheese Bean Dip

Any recipe that puts chili in dip form is bound to be on my list of favorites. Get the recipe for this cheese-covered version here.


22. Slow Cooker Jalapeno Queso Blanco

Everybody loves queso, but add in some spicy jalapenos, and you've got a delicious new tailgating staple. Just throw all the ingredients in the crockpot for a couple hours, and keep it on the "warm" setting to serve with your favorite tortilla chips.


Third Quarter: Charged-Up Snacks & Sides 

For something a little heartier and more savory, these warm apps are perfect to be served throughout the game. 


23. Grilled Potato Skins

Potato skins are a late-night favorite, because they’re so indulgent and satisfying. Keep the flavor and cut the calories by grilling your potatoes and using low-fat cheese.


24. Transformed Pigs in a Blanket

Rather than buying your pigs in a blanket, make them from scratch for some added flavor! It’s a lot easier than you think, and you won’t end up buying tons of frozen apps in bulk.


25. Mexican Spice Cheese Crackers

Homemade snacks are always a fun surprise, even when it only takes a couple ingredients! Make a big batch of these spicy crackers to share with all of your co-fans. 


26. Blue Cheese Stuffed Buffalo Chicken Meatballs

Rather than wings or chicken strips with a communal dipping sauce, pack all of the flavors into one tiny punch with these stuffed meatballs. Your guests will be happy you did!


27. Tri-Tip Tacos

The crockpot is one of our favorite tools for tailgating. Put it to even better use and cook the meat for your tacos in it--perfect for self-serving at a game.



28. Bourbon Bacon Baked Beans

If you're serving BBQ at your tailgate, then pair it with these delicious bourbon bacon baked beans. A savory side that's packed with flavor. 


29. Kielbasa Breakfast Sliders

Keep everyone happy during a breakfast tailgate with these sliders. The kielbasa is a heartier alternative to bacon, and will pair perfectly with your thermos cocktails!


30. Maple-Bourbon Glazed Chicken Wings

These chicken wings can be broiled or grilled, rather than fried. That makes them a healthier alternative, and easy to cook outdoors. Get the recipe here.


31. Creamy Chicken Tacos

Cream cheese is probably the go-to ingredient for most dip recipes during tailgating season. Use it in a different way to make this taco filling.


32. Steak Skewers with Cilantro Pesto

If you're grilling during your tailgate, take it up a notch with these steak skewers made with tenderloin cubes from Stock Yards. Layer with mushrooms, zucchini and peppers, and cover with this easy homemade pesto. 


33. Homemade Chicken Fajita Nachos 

Nachos are typically better dipped, because that ensure every bite gets covered in a decadent topping. No need to worry about that with these nachos; they're layered for maximum flavor (and no double-dipping woes)! 


Fourth Quarter: Touchdown Mains 

If you're planning a full menu to fill up before the big game, then these lunch staples must make an appearance.


34. Barbecue Chicken Sandwiches

Make the barbecue chicken in the slow cooker for rich flavor and juicy shredded chicken. Your tailgate guests will definitely love these sandwiches.


35. Crockpot Sloppy Joes

These sloppy joes are a lot easier to make than you think. You can toast the buns if you’re serving them at home, or prep the meat and pack the buns separately for an outdoor tailgate.


36. Triple-Meaty Breakfast Pasta Bake

Carbs are an essential part of any breakfast! Stay energized for the big game with this easy pasta bake.Tailgating at home? Check out even more ideas for a tailgating brunch party here.


37. Jalapeño-Cheddar Hot Dogs

Hot dogs are guaranteed to be a hit at any barbecue or tailgate. Amp up your game-day recipe with jalepeños and cheddar cheese.


38. Bacon Burger with Homemade Thousand Island Dressing

Amp up your standard cheeseburger with bacon and homemade dressing. Check out our other ultimate burger recipes for even more party options.


39. Sausage Kabobs with BBQ Sauce

Although these kabobs look gourmet, they are simple to assemble. If you have access to a grill for your tailgate, make these kabobs and assemble with your favorite veggies; we recommend bell peppers and onions. Drizzle with BBQ sauce, and serve. 



Sweet Treats for Overtime


40. Grilled Smeaches

Celebrate tailgating season and peach season with these grilled “smeaches.” Order your peaches from Harry and David to make sure they’re perfectly ripe!


41. Salted Caramel Apple Popcorn Bars

Make a big batch of these popcorn bars with delicious caramel popcorn from The Popcorn Factory. These bars can be made ahead of time, and are the perfect creative sweet treat. 


42. Tailgate Party Box

If you want to leave the baking up to the pros, order this box from Cheryl's packed with a variety of cookies and treats. The buttercream-frosted football and ref cookies are totally on theme, and will get everyone pumped for kick-off. 


43. Most Valuable Berries

If you're serving a classier crowd, then serve up some of these football-decorated chocolate-covered strawberries. No need to hassle with piping bags and messy chocolate; order a box from Fruit Bouquets to be delivered in time for your tailgate.

Now go forth, and have the best tailgating season ever! 


More Tailgating Must-Haves: 

The Tailgating Collection from Stock Yards

NFL Team Popcorn Tins from The Popcorn Factory

Game Day Snacks from Harry & David

Find more party planning inspirations for Tailgating

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Meet our Writer
Jennifer Geddes
Celebrations Writer

Jennifer Kelly Geddes has hosted Christmas cookie swaps, New Year's open houses, Thanksgiving for 22, and all manner of dinner parties in her Manhattan and Ghent, NY homes.

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